In addition, there was a much more focused effort to pursue
a nuclear weapons program than the Belfer team previously had understood.
According to the archives, the program was known and directed at a high level,
including by a council that (at the time of approval) included Hassan Rouhani,
now president of Iran. It also had specific funding. Taken together, these
factors indicated to the team that the program went beyond the 2011 International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that the Iranian nuclear-weapons related
activities “took place under a structured programme.”
According to the information reviewed by the team, the
Iranian archive had been compiled and stored around the time of the completion
of the Iran nuclear agreement. The team assessed this to mean that Iran may
have greater capability to reconstitute its program than previously thought.
The IAEA was frequently mentioned in the
archive, and documents relating to the IAEA were specifically color-coded.
Among other things, these documents referred to potentially
concerning scenarios, including alleged instances where Iran acquired
foreknowledge of IAEA inspections prior to 2003.
One of the largest open questions is whether the documents
provide a full picture of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. According to the
Israelis, a second warehouse contained physical materials and equipment from
the program. However, the Iranian government has denied that a second warehouse
exists. When IAEA inspectors visited the alleged location, they did not find
any equipment or materials, although there is evidence that some items were
removed from that warehouse following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement
that Israel had documents from the archive.
At the NTI seminar, Bunn and Mowatt-Larssen emphasized that after
reviewing the information they were given, their team was convinced that the
archive was legitimate. However, they were also clear that the documents only
referenced a limited period of time ending in the mid-2000s.
Finally, the team did not find that the new information in
the documents should lead to any specific course of action. However, it raised several
questions for policy makers going forward, including: How did Iran plan to keep
its program secret as it progressed? Why did the program stop? And has the
strategic intent of Iran changed since 2003, especially given the existence of
For more on the Iran Nuclear Archive, read the commentary by NTI Co-Chair and CEO Ernest J. Moniz and NTI Board Member Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.